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Title: What Stays & What Fades Away
Series: Final Fantasy X
Pairing: Jecht + Braska + Auron
Rating: PG
Warnings: A wee bit angsty. Sorry my Auron's such a crybaby woobie.
Written: 5/7/12
Summary: Takes place from Jecht becoming a fayth up to Auron finding his family.
A/N: I'd just always wondered what it had been like...


When a fayth is made, the soul of the sacrificed is taken from their still living bodies and put into statues, where they will live in an eternal state of dreaming, until the day they are called forth as aeons.

This is not the case for the Final Aeon.

There is no statue for the Final Aeon. The first of the Final Aeons, Zaon, had a statue, but it, like the rest of Zanarkand, lies in ruin inside the abandoned temple. No soul can possess this statue anymore, and no soul ever will. The fayth of every Final Aeon after him has been taken from their still living bodies and bound directly to their summoner. There is no need for prayer to gain the fayth's blessing; that is why it's always someone the summoner shares a deep bond with. The bond requires no need for statues, and with no statue, no other summoner can ask to borrow their power. It is truly the Final Aeon of the would-be High Summoner, and truly his final summon.

Braska hadn't been aware of this fact. Yunalesca didn't explain the process beforehand. He had glanced about the chamber looking for something that may contain the soul of a fayth—in this case, Jecht's soul. But he saw nothing, only more ruins, and beyond them an endless expanse of space, giving the impression they weren't even in Spira anymore, giving the impression they were in a different dimension entirely, outside of space and time. Perhaps they were. Perhaps that was the real reason Zanarkand was called "the world's edge".

Yunalesca only explained what would happen as she was doing it, giving Braska and Jecht no time to say goodbye, if one could call being bound literally heart and soul "goodbye". Jecht was already fading away, turning to pyreflies before Braska's eyes, and before he could stop himself he yelled, "No!" and reached for him. He had been so calm, so prepared for the end, had shown no fear or hesitation in front of Auron, but all of that faded away as quickly as Jecht. Seeing him disappear without a word was suddenly the most terrifying moment of his life; he could imagine nothing more terrifying than this.

"Calm yourself," Yunalesca said suddenly. Her voice sounded so far away. "You will get to say your farewells."

Braska looked at her desperately, at first thinking she meant after the final summoning, before they parted forever, before he died and Jecht became Sin; but then the pyreflies coalesced, coming together to form the transparent form of a man, color slowly filling in the details, until Jecht stood before him again, a translucent spirit, like every other fayth Braska had prayed to on the way to this moment.

"Miss me?" he asked, and Braska laughed with relief, and felt foolish for panicking. His laugh was also one of a person close to breaking, but he reminded himself he couldn't break, he could never break. He had come all this way and it was far, far too late to break.

"I will miss you," was Braska's answer, soft, full of sadness. "For as long as I live."

He half-expected a smart reply, since as far as either of them knew, he hadn't much longer to live anyway. Jecht didn't do as expected though. He only grinned. "That'll be forever then. Shoulda expected as much. S'hard not to miss someone as awesome as me."

Braska laughed again, but was confused. "Forever?"

"Yeah. 'Cause you're gonna live forever, as Braska, vanquisher of Sin!" That was exactly what he'd said when they left on their journey so many weeks ago, before anyone had told him Braska was going to die.

He smiled, wanting so much to touch him, but he knew Jecht was incorporeal and untouchable. He was a fayth now; touching him would mean this conversation would end, would mean they would become aeon and summoner, no longer Jecht and Braska.

"That's only if you do your job."

"Hey." Jecht smiled, but it was a rake's grin, always the same. "I never lose."

Braska had half a mind to remind him of all the times he'd nearly gotten killed on their trip, how many times in the beginning that Auron had to get him out of a tight spot, how many times he would have died had Braska not been there to protect him and heal him quickly. But he didn't. That was Auron's job, and Auron wasn't there.

As though reading his mind, Jecht's expression suddenly became serious. "Tell Auron again that I'll think of somethin'. Tell him not to worry. He worries too much to begin with."

Braska nodded, knowing the end was near, and suddenly becoming less and less willing to let him go.

"Tell him I'll find him somehow. Tell him I'll know when it's him."

Braska nodded again. "I will. I'll tell him, Jecht."

Jecht's serious expression soon softened again into a smile, but not a rake's smile, not a confident grin or infuriating smirk. Braska had never seen him smile this way, and it only made everything more difficult.

"Sorry... I made this a long goodbye. I know you hate those." Jecht started to reach out, toward his face, and that's when Braska's vision blurred, and he realized he was crying. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks, but he kept his gaze steady on Jecht, trying to burn his face into his memory.

"It's alright. You're forgiven."

He almost thought he could feel Jecht's fingers on his cheek, not trying to wipe the tears away, just touching him. He thought he could feel his rough hand sliding against his skin to cup his face, and for a moment he thought Jecht was leaning in to kiss him. But then he faded, not away but into him, as fayth do when answering a summoner's prayer. He was certain he heard Jecht's voice, just before the dizziness of bonding overtook him:

Oh yeah, and tell Auron not to cry.

_______________________________


Braska fell to his knees, vertigo overwhelming him; he had to close his eyes to make the world stop moving around him. He fought to stay conscious, but it was difficult, more difficult than it had ever been. Before, he had always had Auron or Jecht to catch him, to hold him, but not now. He felt so alone, so very alone, and for the first time the idea of being alone frightened him. His mind, weak and foggy, failed to process any other emotion but fear and loneliness. He started to give in to the fog, to let the darkness take him, even if Auron and Jecht weren't there to protect him, guard his unconscious body.

Then, there was a light. A soft, golden pinpoint of light, the tiniest star, that twinkled for a moment before suddenly blossoming, then bursting, into the brightest thing he had ever seen. His mind was suddenly clearer than it had ever been, and his heart calm once again. No fear, no loneliness, and no sadness either. Jecht was gone, but he wasn't. Jecht was inside him, and his presence was as brilliant from the inside as it was out. The light seemed to burn, to smolder; golden and beautiful as it was, it was also fiercer and hotter than any fire. It was Jecht.

Braska smiled.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Whether Yunalesca had been gone or had simply faded from his perception he could not say, but she was speaking to him again, and there was something reassuring about it. "Nothing goes deeper than the bond of aeon and summoner."

Braska opened his eyes, and with seeing reality went the light, back into the recesses of his mind. He knew, however, that when he closed his eyes long enough, he would see it again. He could feel it still, burning inside him, proud and eager, just like always.

He rose to his feet and discreetly dusted off his robe. "It is..." He touched his chest lightly, as if pressing too hard would extinguish Jecht's light. "It is beautiful."

Yunalesca smiled. Braska had thought her incapable of smiling. He had thought her incapable of emotion, that a thousand years of solitude and servitude had killed every last shred of what made her human, sending it ahead of her body's form.

"You shan't feel any pain," she told him. "The bond between the Final Aeon and summoner is so complete there is no separating them. You are one now, completely. Though you feel his presence, he is a part of you, his soul woven into the fabric of your own. It is this fact that causes the death of the summoner: calling forth the Final Aeon wrenches free your own soul. His aeon body shall become one with Yu Yevon, to be made anew in the form of Sin, while your own shall disperse and be set free."

It was just as horrible to hear as it was to think, and he knew it would be even more horrible when it actually happened. Even so, he felt no fear. Whatever tiny, nondescript form of fear that had lain in hiding deep inside him all this time, it had been quelled completely by Jecht and his light. He would die, but it would be worth it. It would buy Auron and Jecht the time they needed to end it all for good. He believed in them.

Braska turned, staff held firmly in his hand, and started back toward the doors leading into the temple proper, where Auron still waited. As he walked away from her, Yunalesca spoke:

"Go to the Calm Lands and wait for him there. He will come."

_______________________________


Auron's eyes were at first full of hope, hope that as Braska came down the crumbling steps, Jecht would follow after. They'd changed their minds, they'd decided to look for another way together, with him—that's what he hoped. But Jecht did not follow Braska. The doors closed with an angry finality, as if yelling at them to leave and get on with it, perform your duty to Spira and die a hero, Braska. That's what they said. As if it were really so easy.

Auron had been crying as he waited on them, but hope had ceased his tears. Now, seeing no hope left, the tears came again.

"He said not to cry."

It took a second for Auron to realize who "he" was. "He... He did?"

The barest smile touched Braska's lips, and he gave the slightest nod. "His last words."

His last request, Auron said to himself, which made Jecht's absence sting even more. Even so, he would honor that request to the best of his ability. He wouldn't cry. Not yet, anyway. He wiped his tears on his sleeve and prepared himself for the answer to his next question.

"So... he is... truly gone?"

Still with that miniscule smile, Braska shook his head. "No, Auron, of course not. He's a fayth now." Braska put his hand over his heart. "He's within me."

Auron looked at Braska's chest as if he expected to see Jecht's face appear on his robes. Of course he was. Of course. That's what the fayth did. They merged with the summoner. Auron had never seen it happen, since it was taboo to enter the chamber while a summoner was praying, but Braska had described it to him once.

"Can you feel him?" He had asked Braska that once before as well, and Braska had answered no. But there was something different about him this time. Maybe it was only what he had to do now, maybe it was simply his resignation, but something told him it was different this time.

"I can." Braska's eyes lit up with a gentle sort of joy as he confirmed Auron's suspicions. For a moment they were glassy, as if he were about to cry. "It's amazing. He still lives, Auron. As vibrant as always."

That was little comfort to Auron, but Braska's gentle sort of euphoria was a comfort in itself. At the very least, Braska was content in his last few days left in this world.

At the very least? Braska's happiness should have been his top priority now. Protecting Braska, loving Braska, wanting only the best of everything for Braska—that was everything to him. But suddenly it wasn't enough. He had been prepared to lose Braska, he had always been prepared, but he had not been prepared to lose Jecht. He had never been prepared.

"If you can feel him... do you think he can feel us? Do you think... he can feel me?" It felt like a stupid question, it felt childish, but he had to know. He had to know if Jecht was truly gone or not.

Braska closed his eyes, as if he were concentrating, only his face was completely calm—beyond calm, almost deific in its serenity. When he opened them again, he reached out a hand to touch Auron's face. Braska's hands had always been soft, nothing like Auron and Jecht's hands, but as he touched his cheek, Auron thought they felt rough, yet still familiar, hot and calloused... Jecht's hands.

"He can."

Auron believed him. He believed in the rough touch of the baby-soft hand on his cheek, and he believed in Braska's endlessly blue eyes. He embraced him, clung to him, held on as hard as he could, and as Braska embraced him back, it felt as though they weren't really holding each other, but holding Jecht between them, one to his front and the other to his back, desperate to keep him there. Time stopped, nothing existed but the three of them, Braska and Jecht as one, and Auron as the red thread that would always hold them together.

_______________________________


It was a two day journey back across Mt. Gagazet and to the Calm Lands. Two days left for Auron to be with Braska. They didn't speak much, though Auron knew he should have been saying so much, saying everything he had ever thought to say but had been too shy or reserved to. Some things weren't his place, and some things would only make it harder on Braska. He wanted to ask him things, lots of things, some of them about Jecht—what it was like to feel him inside, if he could hear him, if they could speak to each other, if there was a way Auron could speak with him. They had said their goodbyes, Jecht had even given him a hug, but it wasn't enough. It was still too sudden and too soon. They had only known each other a few months, but he missed him more than he would ever be able to say. Jecht had changed their lives, had become a part of them... there was no way he wouldn't be missed.

Only... that was half-true. He had become a part of Braska—literally a part of Braska. In the two days it took to make it back down the snowy mountain, Braska was calmer than ever before, and Auron knew it wasn't his resolve. It was too late to go back now, yes, but Braska's peaceful expression every time he closed his eyes wasn't the calm before the storm, so to speak; it was Jecht. They were together now in a way Auron would never experience, and while it wasn't an experience he ever wished to have, it did make him feel even more alone. In a way, they had already left him behind. Braska was there with him physically, but his mind and heart were deep inside, in a safe place, in Jecht's keeping until they faced Sin together. Auron would never have it again.

_______________________________


The sun was setting behind the mountain by the time they made it back. Braska told Auron to leave, not to stay and watch. He kissed him goodbye, looked into his eyes with his own full of so much sadness it made Auron's heart ache, and said, "I love you."

You don't have to do this. We can find a way. A way to bring Jecht back. Another way to defeat Sin. We can end the cycle. You don't have to die! You can't die! Please don't leave me alone!!

"I love you, Braska."

Braska smiled with sweet surprise. It was the first time Auron had ever addressed him informally.

"Go."

Auron hesitated, almost shook his head in defiance. He was Braska's Guardian, it was his duty to stand by his master's side and guard him until the end. He knew, however, that this was the one moment he wasn't needed. Not anymore. Braska had Jecht, his Final Aeon. That was all he needed now. Even though Jecht couldn't save him, Auron knew he couldn't either. It would only make things worse if he stayed.

Braska didn't need him anymore, and he never would again.

He did as told. He retreated to the slope above the plains, the mouth of the path between the Calm Lands and Macalania. He could see everything from up there. The Calm Lands were deserted, the travel agency quiet; word had quickly gotten out that Summoner Braska had attained the Final Aeon. No one would be visiting the Calm Lands until word spread of Sin's defeat. Braska was a small figure near the lip of the canyon, the scar where Sin had first fell, and would always fall. Its death bed and the bed of its birth. Auron wondered what was going through Braska's head. He wondered if he was talking to Jecht. He wondered if his heart was wavering at all. He knew it wasn't.

Night was suddenly upon them, or so it seemed, until Auron realized the encroaching darkness quickly eclipsing the red sky was Sin's shadow. Now it was upon them. Braska's finest moment. The worst moment of Auron's life.

_______________________________


It was strange... Braska had expected to die instantly. Yunalesca had said the summoning would take his spirit along with Jecht's—he had assumed that meant death as soon as the Final Summoning was complete. But it didn't. He didn't die. It was as she said, there was no pain, but his perception of the world was altered, as though he'd taken some mind-altering drug. The world was too real, everything too crisp and too clear—even the smell of the grass was stronger, he thought he could hear his heartbeat as clear as a drum, echoing through the valley, and the cool wind on his face suddenly felt like ice. He understood he couldn't fall yet, that unlike the other aeons, Jecht may need him. It was imperative they win this battle, and the summoner had to do all he could to keep his aeon alive.

It was funny though... Braska had been doing all he could to keep Jecht alive throughout their journey, but he knew Jecht didn't really need him now. There was no way he could lose. It was his show now. His game.

He was larger than life. Bahamut—the largest and most powerful of the temple's aeons—truly was a child compared to the monstrosity that pulled its way out of the depths of the canyon to his side. Braska had never imagined an aeon to be so large, even though it was still an ant compared to the huge bulk of Sin. As monstrous as it was, however, it was still Jecht; it even looked like him, much to Braska's surprise. Aeons seemed to take the shape of beasts borne from their own feelings of self-worth; a small boy becomes a giant dragon, a homely girl a magnificent ice queen, and a soldier a powerful beast of flame. It made sense then, that Jecht would still look like Jecht, since to Jecht, there was nothing in the world greater than himself.

Braska smiled up at the creature, and it was a smile like none he had shown before, or would ever show again, in any lifetime: dark, with ferocious determination.

"Alright, Jecht," he said as he stepped back, the both of them turning to the monster that slowly descended upon them. "Let's see you blitz."

_______________________________


It took all Auron's willpower not to go running to Braska's side as Sin drew nearer, both to protect him, but also to save him from himself, as he started to perform the Final Summoning. As soon as the light started to surround him, however, Auron couldn't move, could only watch in awe—it was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. As the plains grew darker, Sin closer, and the lights of the summoning dimmer, Auron worried for a moment it had failed, as Jecht did not appear. Not from the sky or beneath the ground, he saw him nowhere.

When he climbed up from the canyon, Auron's first reaction was knee-jerk irritation—leave it to Jecht to make them wait. Leave it to Jecht to make him worry. Leave it to Jecht... Just leave it to Jecht.

That's all they could do now.

Auron felt helpless, but also determined. If he couldn't stand with them, he would at least cheer for them. Never mind what would happen once they won, never mind that he would be completely alone. All that mattered now was victory. He didn't want them to die, but he didn't want to see them destroyed by Sin even more.

"Jecht... if you lose, I'll never forgive you."

_______________________________


Braska's vision was starting to blur. He wasn't sure what was happening anymore. The world no longer looked too real—it didn't look real at all. Space felt distorted, the air looked liquid, the silhouettes of Jecht and Sin only vaguely more distinct than everything around them. Everything looked painted, color began to smear and run together as though the painter had spilled terpentine. He saw Sin fall, piece by piece, beyond Jecht's body, leaving blurred motion trails in its wake. Until the pyreflies came. The pyreflies were real. They didn't blur or smudge or smear; they wafted around him and danced and swirled like always, clear and beautiful as could be, singing their high-pitched, otherworldly song.

He didn't realize they were his pyreflies.

_______________________________


The battle had been won. Jecht was still tearing Sin apart, but the battle had been won. Auron had to take the chance. Braska was still on his feet and Auron couldn't stand back any longer. He tore across the plain as fast as he could, pyreflies starting to fill the air—Sin's body was dissipating. He'd never seen anything like it, so many pyreflies in one place, weaving frantically skyward, singing, or maybe screaming.

Suddenly, Braska started to fall, and Auron knew he wouldn't make it. He wouldn't make it in time to catch him, and he couldn't forgive his legs for not being fast enough, for starting to burn from overexertion, starting to betray him. He didn't need to catch Braska though, because Jecht was there—a monster, but there, breaking Braska's fall with one giant hand, a hand big enough to be a comfortable bed. Braska's deathbed.

Even as Auron skidded to his knees and leaned over him, Jecht held Braska gently in his massive hand, like holding an injured bird, never letting him touch the ground. Braska's eyes were half-open, and there was still light there, glistening like starlight between his dark lashes. But that was all it was, the reflection of the dying light of day, the sky already full of stars, the millions of pyreflies dissipating before ever reaching that far. Auron realized some of those pyreflies weren't Sin's. Some of those pyreflies were Braska's. He was already gone. There was no light of life in his eyes anymore, only the dancing light of death.

Auron grimaced, and with a trembling hand closed Braska's eyes. He rested his head against Braska's chest. He was fading very slowly, but fading all the same. He didn't want him to go yet. He didn't want to lose his body, too. He wrapped his arms around him, pulling him upright and against his own chest, hugging him bone-crushingly tight, rocking back and forth as the sobs lodged in his throat. Jecht slowly moved his hand, letting Braska's legs rest on the soft grass, giving him to Auron to hold. Auron would wonder—much, much later—if Jecht had been crying, too.

Just when it felt like his head would burst from the pressure, he screamed. It echoed off the surrounding mountains and mocked him with its futility. Screaming wouldn't bring him back. Nothing would ever bring him back. He screamed again, this time with rage, almost as all-consuming as his grief. He prayed for Braska to speak, to comfort him, tell him it was alright in his warm, patient voice. That voice had always soothed him, always made his tears go away. But he would never hear that voice again, so these tears would never go away.

As he sat there sobbing pathetically, overwhelmed by helpless grief, the body in his arms finally disappeared, and Auron was only hugging himself. He felt the pyreflies touching his face, as if Braska were saying his final goodbye. They floated upward, across Jecht's face as well, and then faded away in the moonlight.

He felt dry of tears then, drained and almost dead himself, slumping forward, his face nearly in the grass. That's when he felt it, a sudden, gentle touch on his back. For a moment he thought it was Braska, putting his arms around him, miraculously alive. He lifted his head and realized too soon it wasn't Braska. It was Jecht. Jecht, attempting in the best way he could to comfort him. Jecht wasn't good at these things, he'd always said so, and being big enough to crush Auron like a bug made him that much more awkward, but he was still trying.

He was still there.

"Why..." Why was he still there? Braska was gone, the connection was broken, Jecht's spirit had no "home" to go back to. Perhaps he was holding on for Auron, perhaps he wasn't ready to say goodbye yet either.

Monster or not, his presence was a comfort. As long as he was with him, Auron wouldn't have minded if he stayed a monster forever. As long as he wasn't alone, as long as he still had one of them to touch, to hold.

He put a hand on Jecht's arm. The skin was sort of scaly, rough and smooth at the same time. He leaned against it, exhausted.

"Jecht... I..." There was something he needed to say, and he knew Jecht wouldn't be there forever. He knew he would be gone too, eventually. "I—"

He was interrupted when the massive creature he was speaking to—not Jecht, but Braska's Final Aeon—suddenly gave a violent shudder, fist pounding the ground as if in pain or maybe rage, barely missing Auron and causing the ground to fissure around him.

"Jecht?!" Jecht's body still rose from within the canyon—perhaps a part of it, Auron had no idea, but his trembling was causing the ground to tremble as well, making it very unsteady near the edge where Auron sat. He couldn't bring himself to move, however, for in that moment, he was filled with deadly calm. This was Jecht's final moment. He was going to watch him die now, right in front of him, just like Braska, and it wasn't going to be an easy death. But maybe, with all Jecht's terrible shuddering and the ground's increasing quaking, maybe he could go with him, and not suffer anymore?

He thought that wish was coming true when Jecht swatted him, sending him tumbling out of danger's range. He heard, somehow, in his head, a gruff and very angry voice yell, GET OUTTA HERE, YOU IDIOT!!

Auron stared in shock, unsure if he'd heard it or not, but he was certain he hadn't been hit on accident just then. That's when he realized—quite belatedly—that Jecht wasn't dying at all. He was being possessed, and he was trying to fight it. That's why he hadn't disappeared upon Braska's death. He had already been possessed, and now Yu Yevon was starting over.

"No..." Auron stood, taking up his sword. "I won't let you."

Jecht, who until that moment hadn't made a single sound, roared. It was an excruciating sound, in scope and emotion. Pain, anger, frustration, it reverberated around them so loudly it made the mountains themselves shake, and it shook Auron's bones to the marrow.

He pounded the ground again with his left fist, that hand bigger and more monstrous than the other, and this time the ground did break away, crumbling into the ravine. Auron knew then, without a single doubt, that Jecht was far more angry than in pain, and he was angry at him, for not leaving like he wanted him to. There was nothing he could do to stop it, and he knew that, standing there with his sword in hand but not taking a single step forward. He could only watch Jecht's frustration mounting until, with another agitated roar, he flung himself into the canyon. The earth shook even harder for several seconds, and then, finally, it all stopped.

Auron hesitated before running back to the edge and looking over. There was nothing but a deep, yawning blackness, no sign of Jecht, no sign of Sin. He stood there nearly a minute, expecting something to happen, but it never did. Jecht... was gone.

_______________________________


It wasn't long before Auron met Jecht again. Dead now, an Unsent bitter and hateful enough to become a fiend, the only thing that kept him together was his promise to Jecht, to look after his son. He had made sure Kimahri took Yuna to Besaid, as Braska had wished. He witnessed from afar the tantrum she threw as Kimahri tried to leave her, and was surprised when Kimahri stayed. It had been chance that brought he and Kimahri together, but now he thought it must have been fate. He hated fate, but he couldn't not believe in it. He couldn't have found a better guardian for Braska's daughter without it.

Now he wandered at sea, having commandeered a tiny boat of his own, but had no idea how to find Jecht's Zanarkand. Because Sin mostly stayed at sea, and Jecht had been training at sea when he'd come into contact with it, it had to be somewhere out there just beyond navigation's reach, floating in protected isolation.

He started to think he might wander aimlessly at sea forever. But one day, while floating in the middle of nowhere, he finally came to lead him. Jecht—Sin—rising from the water, no bigger than he'd been the last time Auron had seen him, but changed, and still changing. His face was still Jecht's, half-covered in thick armor and distorted to fit the misshapen head it would eventually grow to be. He even still had hair, though it looked more like sea debris hung on his knobby back.

At that point, Auron had no fear. Still bitter, still angry, he was nevertheless calm and collected. The overemotional part of him that had driven him back to Yunalesca's and gotten him killed—that had been the first part to die.

"You've found it, haven't you?" he said softly to the creature floating before him. It was all Jecht. He still had control. "You're going to take me there."

The only response the creature gave was to sink beneath the water again, out of sight, until Auron's boat shook and was suddenly lifted out of the water completely. It was just big enough to balance on Sin—Jecht's—back, but Auron knew it was too unsteady and so abandoned ship, kicking it overboard. Let the sea have it. He had a better ride.

To anyone else, this would have been extremely dangerous, but Auron wasn't just anyone. He was an Unsent, and no longer had to worry about his life. He could ride this monster straight to hell and back if he wanted.

On the way, Jecht showed him visions, visions of his life. Auron had heard so many stories, but this was the first time he was seeing them. Zanarkand in all its glory, blitzball, Jecht's home, his wife, and his son.

"I'll find them," Auron promised. "And I'll look for you."

No matter how long it took, he would wait for him, wait for Sin. Then, they would put an end to all this.

_______________________________


It was surprisingly easy to find Jecht's home. All he had to do was ask around. Jecht was so famous, it seemed everyone knew where he once lived. Auron thought that was a bit dangerous, but then he supposed being an admired blitzball player was different than being a despised summoner.

From what he could tell, it had been a year since Jecht had disappeared. It was still in the papers and magazines, on billboards, tabloids claiming he'd been seen here, there, and everywhere. Auron found them amusing.

He wasn't sure how to approach Jecht's wife at first, but he knew he had to. He couldn't watch from afar, as much as he wanted to. He wished he could tell her everything he knew, but he couldn't. At least not truthfully.

"You're a friend of my husband's?" She was pretty, with clear blue eyes, but a lot plainer than he had envisioned her to be. Of all the beautiful women Jecht could have had—and probably did have—why did he settle with this woman? Auron wanted to understand it, though it made him uncomfortable. This was his wife, and yet he and Jecht had...

"Yes. I know it's late, but I wanted to offer my condolences."

For a moment her eyes lit up. "Do you know where he is? Do you have any idea?"

Yes, but it's best you don't know.

"No. I'm sorry."

The light in her eyes dimmed and she looked away with more than disappointment. Looking at her more closely, she appeared somewhat sickly, her skin pasty and dark shadows under her eyes. She was too thin, not in a natural way, but gaunt, as though she hadn't eaten well in a long time.

Still, she was polite and invited him inside, made him tea, and asked him many questions.

"So do you play blitzball?"

He'd never played blitzball in his life. "No. We... fought together."

"Fought?"

Already he was making mistakes. In this Zanarkand, fiends were a rarity. He tried to think of a good lie. "Fiends. In secret. Before they could reach the city."

She gasped. "Really?? He never told me that!"

"We're not supposed to tell. So... don't tell."

"Oh, I won't! But thank you for telling me. I can't believe he was able to keep it a secret, though. He was never very good at that."

"No... he wasn't. He had a rather big mouth."

"You're telling me! One time, he..."

The conversation lasted hours, because Jecht's wife could talk for hours if it was about her husband. It was nice that she loved him so much, but it made him sad for Jecht, remembering how badly he had wanted to come home, to her, his family. This pretty young woman was wasting away waiting for him, and yet Jecht had been with him and Braska... It was so hard for him to understand, and so uncomfortable to think about.

"Is that your son?"

The boy had appeared from below deck at the other end of their houseboat, holding a blitzball, his back to them. He was even smaller than he'd anticipated.

The woman looked over her shoulder and smiled. "Yes, Tidus. Did Jecht talk about him?"

Auron smiled. "All the time. That's... actually the reason I'm here. He once told me that if anything happened to him, he would like it if I watched over the two of you in his stead."

Her eyes widened, but he couldn't tell what kind of emotion she was feeling. "He did...?" Her voice was barely even a whisper, as if Jecht had asked this from beyond the grave, making it unbelievable. "Was he that certain something may happen to him?"

"No. Just a what-if. He was only thinking of keeping his family safe."

Her smile trembled slightly as her eyes welled with tears. "Thank you. Thank you for coming, and thank you for telling me this. I would like it very much if you could stay with us."

Auron shook his head a little too quickly. "That won't be necessary." He couldn't do it, he couldn't just move in with Jecht's family, no matter how much he felt like his family; that was in a completely different world, almost a completely different Jecht. It would be too much. Plus, being dead meant he didn't have the same needs as living people. It would be too risky. "Just know that I will always be near, and anytime you need me, I'll be there."

Because that's what a Guardian does.

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love is a grave mental disease
po_is_a_writer
Po is a writer, a writer of fictions

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